The Department of Justice's monitoring of the Christina School District Board of Education will last until July 1, 2025.

Dept. of Justice to monitor Christina SD Board for 1 year 

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

The Department of Justice's monitoring of the Christina School District Board of Education will last until July 1, 2025.

The Department of Justice’s monitoring of the Christina School District Board of Education will last until July 1, 2025.

The Delaware Department of Justice will monitor the meetings of Christina School District’s board of education for the next year. 

Every year, the General Assembly creates a grants-in-aid bill, which outlines the state’s investments in  government agencies and nonprofits, like senior centers, veterans organizations and fire companies, for example.

The bill appeared to be business-as-usual, but the penultimate section of it is unique and something multiple education experts have not seen before. 

It states that the Department of Justice’s monitoring of Christina “will focus on transparency, adherence to public information laws, and other issues that may arise.”

At the conclusion of the year, which will be July 1, 2025, the Justice Department will issue a report to the General Assembly of its activities, including a synopsis of any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) matters observed and any recommendations for changes necessary to ensure the proper operation of the Christina Board of Education.

“I am not aware of any similar statutes to this one, but we were made aware that this would be included in epilogue language and are happy to provide the service that the legislature is asking of us,” said Mat Marshall, communications director at the Department of Justice.

At Christina’s board of education meeting in June, Board President Don Patton mentioned a letter from the Attorney General outlining concerns regarding board meetings not following open meeting laws. 

“It is my hope that this monitoring will result in improved board transparency and accountability,” said Board Member Monica Moriak. “I believe it is important to note that it is the board being monitored, not the district. I believe following board policy and state law is important as well as transparency in the board’s goals and actions.”

In recent months especially, there has been division among the board of education, involving unsuccessful votes of no confidence and some members questioning and doubting the ability of President Patton and Superintendent Dan Shelton. 

Moniak is firm in her belief in Shelton’s ability to lead the district. 

“His leadership has been exemplary,” she said. “He has prioritized the students and staff while also prioritizing more autonomy in the classroom and in the school buildings. He has continued this and shown great professionalism in the face of board hostility this past year.”

Patton said the board is aware of the epilogue language in the grant-in-aid bill, and said it will have a public comment soon. 

That will likely come at the board’s next monthly meeting, which is Tuesday, July 9 at 7 p.m.

“This will not change anything relating to the operation of our board, or district.” Patton said. 

Rep. Cyndie Romer, D-Newark, said although she doesn’t think the state has seen something like this in the epilogue language of a bill, there has been a precedent set for legislators inquiring into the activity of school boards. 

“We’ve seen that in other districts where the Department of Justice has been asked to look into FOIA violations and things like that,” she said. “There’s been a growing concern over the dysfunction of the Christina school board.”

She cited recent infighting, executive board session discussions being brought to the public and a host of FOIA violations. 

There have also been rumblings that a board member has been out of the country since January. 

The situation is unrelated to the Redding Consortium’s plan to remove the Christina School District from the city of Wilmington, which the legislature recently paved the way for with House Concurrent Resolution 146, sponsored by Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington, who is a member of the consortium. 

RELATED: State moves to take Christina School District out of city 

That bill supports Christina’s city students and plans for the eventual withdrawal of the district from the city’s bounds.

Watch Christina’s next board meeting here.

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